Death Race 2008 May Look Better Than the Original, But It Smells Worse

Death Race

A remake of Roger Corman’s 1975 classic Death Race 2000 should be a no-brainer. Fast cars, loud guns, campy characters, and politically incorrect humor should be a recipe for guaranteed entertainment. So why do I get the feeling this year’s Death Race remake will be a no-brainer in a completely different way?

I’ll admit the newly released photos in the latest issue of Empire Magazine appeal to my love of anything involving vehicular-combat. From The Road Warrior trilogy (well, the first two anyway) to the gruesomely pixelated giblets of the Carmageddon games, automobiles strapped with weapons mixed with pedestrian roadkill just make me smile. The cars look even more badass than Jason Statham, which is impressive as that guy is never happy. But as pretty as the pictures are, everything else about the movie is suspect.

Right off the bat you have the director, Paul W. S. Anderson, of Resident Evil, Event Horizon, and Alien vs Predator fame. I won’t bash him as a complete hack as many have done, but I wouldn’t call him an especially good filmmaker. He can do action and his films usually look like they cost a lot more than they actually did, but the positives stop there. The remake’s screenwriter, J. F. Lawton, birthed upon the world such classics as Blankman, Chain Reaction, and Dead or Alive, so that’s not promising either. To be fair, the original isn’t remembered all these years later for its direction or screenplay (although both were better than the usual Corman produced fare), it’s a classic due to its hilariously non-pc attitude and bloody action.

Death Race 2000 featured a future society so enamored by spectacle and viscera that the biggest sporting event around is a car race where the drivers earn points by running over pedestrians. The drivers are celebrities with groupies who sacrifice their lives beneath their heroes spinning wheels. The highest points are awarded for killing those deemed most unnecessary to society, like babies, the elderly, and women; so hospitals hold Euthanasia Day and line the infirmed up in the parking lot as easy points for the racers. It’s a satirical look at society’s love of violence, and it makes its point through action, black comedy, gore, sex, and of course, violence.

The new Death Race appears to throw all that meaty satire and comedy out the passenger side window in favor of a tired Running Man re-tread. Here prisoners are forced to take part in the race on elaborately constructed and contained tracks and battlegrounds. No pedestrians to splat, no underlying anti-violence message, no nazis… just Statham as an innocent man framed for a crime he didn’t commit and forced to race for his life (I blame Lawton for that gem.) Judging by the photos though, Statham and his machine gun-mounted muscle car should at the absolute very least look really good as they blow shit up and unleash some serious vehicular kung-fu.

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